View Full Version : Tenor Resonator ...

Oct-02-2009, 11:13am
Hello, I just found this board. Great place and lots of information.

I also just discovered that our old 'we-dunno-what-it-is' 4-string is a tenor resonator.
I've played 6-string on & off for years (Ovations Custom & Elite) and jammed with a lot of folks, but no one could ever tell me whatnh$ll that 4-string was.

So, who made it? Seriously.
It's in very good shape, no cracks at all and the neck is straight.
The ??? has a moon & stars cutout, 12 of them. Not a true sunburst, just a lighter area on a darker background. The bowl is the same darker brown.

But, and this kills me, I cannot find a single identifying decal, maker's mark, designation or anything on it. I do know it belonged to my dad's Uncle George who died in 1937. Uncle George left us lots of cool old stuff.

I can e-mail anyone pictures if they'd like to post them here.
I sure would appreciate it if someone could tell me more about it.

Oct-02-2009, 11:56am
Look around on the site in general there are instructions to post pictures ,
so you don't need to send them to someone else to post then for you.

once they are Up lots of "experts" will offer an opinion.

one dividing characteristic is : type of cone mechanism .. Biscuit, or Spider bridge ?

That is, what the bridge is fitted into, you can see that under the cover, in the middle.

Oct-02-2009, 12:46pm
My son is on safari hunting his camera charger. Having seen his room, I realize he may never come back.
Which is too bad, I need him to get it down off the wall...

Biscuit or spider, I'll get on that.

And thanks, very much.

Oct-02-2009, 12:58pm
Does it have a round body, like a banjo, or a guitar-shaped body?

Oct-02-2009, 2:01pm
I have a moon-and-stars coverplate on my National Dobro resonator mandolin; National and Dobro merged in the late '30's, so that may give you some idea of the instrument's vintage.

There are a bunch of four-string resonator instruments made by National and Dobro. If it has a guitar-shaped body, it's either a tenor guitar or a plectrum guitar. The two were tuned differently -- the tenor guitar CGDA like a tenor banjo or mandola, the plectrum guitar CGBD like a plectrum banjo (which is a 5-string banjo minus the 5th string). You can tell the plectrum guitar because of its longer neck.

If it has a round wooden body it could be a Dobro Tenortrope, made for Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, which is like a resonator version of a tenor banjo. There are two of them shown in this picture. (http://www.vintageinstruments.com/museum/roundwoodtnrsfulpage.html) I've never seen one with the moon-and-stars coverplate, though.

By the way, I assume it has a wooden body because you said "no cracks." If it has a metal body, it's more likely to be made by National (before or after the Dobro merger); a wooden body is more likely to be Dobro (or Regal, which licensed Dobro resonator technology and made many resonator instruments). The question Mandroid asked about "spider vs. biscuit" bridge also divides Dobro (spider) from National (biscuit), as the two companies constructed their resonators differently.

There are also some resonator and quasi-resonator "knock-offs" made in imitation of National and Dobro instruments. Some of them don't actually have resonators, just a coverplate above a regular wooden guitar top! That moon-and-stars coverplate design, however, does suggest either a National or a Dobro instrument. Usually they were labeled by a decal on the headstock, but those decals have a way of coming off over time.

See if you can post a picture or two; so far, sorta guessing in the dark...

Oct-02-2009, 2:20pm
Yep and we're going to keep guessing in the dark because we don't have a photobucket whatzit and I have no clue how to do that. On the other hand, my son returned safely from the safari, much the worse for wear, but with pictures!

Guitar-shaped, not roundy. Sunburst (bad me) and on the back, too. F-holes. Hey, it's been hanging on the wall for decades...
Shorter neck, 28", makes it a tenor, yes?

Please, someone, let me mail the pictures for posting.
No, I'm not a bot or spam! And I did the Avast thing yesterday.

Uhh, how do I clean up the resonator? It's been living not far from a return vent and looks it.

Oct-02-2009, 2:32pm
The body and resonator look like this one, but the bridge is different.
Plus the keys go "out" from the back.


The bridge looks like this one:


Oct-02-2009, 2:41pm
Plus the keys go "out" from the back.
Meaning that it has banjo tuners, as indeed most resophonic tenors did.

Probably a Dobro-made tenor of some type. Never heard of a National with a moon-and-stars coverplate.

You can send photos to martin.stillion@gmail.com.

Oct-02-2009, 2:57pm
Oh, thank you!
My son wants his Zip drive back. Dunno why, he'll just lose it again....

Oct-02-2009, 3:16pm
...Uhh, how do I clean up the resonator? It's been living not far from a return vent and looks it.

Wipe the coverplate with a damp cloth, then use Simichrome (http://www.amazon.com/Cleaner-Simichrome-Polish-Gram-1-76/dp/B000BGOC0W) on it. If the surface isn't too pitted, it should clean up OK.

If you have any affection for this instrument, get an inexpensive chipboard case for it, and store it where the humidity stays somewhere around 50% year-round. You have a decent-quality vintage guitar there, and it's worth taking care of.

Oct-02-2009, 3:36pm
Here she is. Definitely looks Regal-ish to me.

Oct-02-2009, 3:38pm
Simichrome is good stuff, I use it on my bike.

It is a great little thing and has stayed straight all these years, so, no, I dont' want anything to happen to it. Flea market this weekend then for a case.

Thank you, all of you. This came up because we sold a TV the other day and the man asked about the guitar and offered me $20! You know, "cash money, on the spot." Silly me, I thought there was another kind.... Sheesh.

I sent a LOT of pictures to Martin. Poor man, they are the size of murals.
I never got the hang of sizing those things....

Oct-02-2009, 4:00pm
Thank you, all of you. This came up because we sold a TV the other day and the man asked about the guitar and offered me $20! You know, "cash money, on the spot." Silly me, I thought there was another kind.... Sheesh.

Cheapskate. I'd have offered at least $40. :))

I don't have time to resize and post all the photos, but I can forward them if anyone has a more refined theory on who built the instrument.

Oct-02-2009, 4:05pm
Actually, looking closer at the photos, the bridge is missing and it appears to be a "fake reso": just a coverplate screwed to the top. No hole, no cone. Still worth more'n $20, but if I had one of these I too would hang it on the wall and keep playing my National Triolian.

Oct-02-2009, 4:38pm
See, offering 40 bucks is why you're a gentleman.... Same for posting its picture.

So, it's a what if not a resonator?
Always wondered about the sound hole because you can't see it.

I'll clean it up and put strings on it, we need new strings for my daughter's fiddle anyhow. You know it... "always keep the old strings," she broke one, no fiddle.

Oct-02-2009, 6:44pm
Regal used to manufacture those "faux resonator" guitars under the Beltone label. Here's (http://www.bigroadblues.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=10183) a six-string Beltone that looks not too different from your tenor. Since Regal and Dobro had a licensing agreement, under which Regal built the wooden bodies and National Dobro installed the resonators, it's perhaps understandable that this guitar would end up with a Dobro "moon and stars" coverplate.

More of a curiosity than a super instrument, though. If it is missing the bridge, you might want to take it to a reputable instrument repair person and see if it could be fitted with one.

Oct-02-2009, 6:47pm
It needs a bridge before you can string it. Your violin shop may be able to recommend someone who does guitar repairs.

Without a resonator it's just a tenor guitar with a fancy piece of metal screwed to the top.

Oct-02-2009, 7:30pm
I ran into this problem when I was looking for more domestic alternatives to a Del Vecchio violao tenor. How many other models of wood-bodied reso tenors (with real resos) were made? I think Dobro made one model. Were there any wood body Nationals? Anyone else?

Oct-02-2009, 7:51pm
Yes, early National Triolians have wood bodies. I have one.

Oct-02-2009, 8:44pm
Ahh, I thought they were all metal.

Edit: Apparently there were tenor versions of the later, jobber-built Nationals as well - Rosita, El Trovador, Trojan, Estralita, Havana, Aragon de Luxe. Of course these are probably either long gone or in the hands of collectors..

I would've preferred to have it be LA-built though. I guess I'll keep looking.

Oct-03-2009, 12:19pm
Regal used to manufacture those "faux resonator" guitars under the Beltone label. Here's (http://www.bigroadblues.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=10183) a six-string Beltone that looks not too different from your tenor.

Thanks for a great thread. 4 pages of usefulness.
Fellow said he used a pick-up... Hmm, don't have one, we've got Ovations and electrics.

If no one's listened to /watched his "faux" youtube videos, they are very good.

Think I'll keep this old thing and give it some love.

Oct-23-2009, 8:52pm
Kay also made a wooden bodied resonator in the late forties. These originally had a removable wooden plate rather than a metal cone.

From what I understood from some of the old guys who worked at Kay, it primarily was a shop model made as a test instrument for National / Dobro in the late thirties which never went into production (for them). Kay kept the tooling (they kept everything) and came out with perhaps one lot of twenty of them which were mostly sold in the Chicago area.

The del Vecchio's I've seen (few, maybe three) had the same top arrangement but had a series of L brackets screwed and glued into the top to support a spider cone and bridge. Some of them sounded great but it seemed to rely on a good, quality set up.

As for the Kay models - They had the best looking sound holes of any reso type guitar I've ever seen - and a subtle, mahogany to dark red sunburst. I bought one at a yard sale in the early sixties for about 5 bucks and used it as a wall hanger for years. Great looking instrument but a bit on quiet side. I may modify to the del Vecchio system - or not.

Oct-23-2009, 10:42pm
Hm, haven't seen a spider DV; most I've seen (only on the 'bay) were biscuits on top of pyramid-type cones.. Maybe I'm not understanding the terminology correctly?

Re-reading Bob Brozman's book, it looks as if the Rosita and El Trovador were made as tenors but there aren't any entries for the other types. There is an entry for a Collegian tenor, though.